Effective Protests: What They Are, and Why They’re So Difficult to Pull Off
Getting a Universal message across to people in the days of social media seems daunting…but it’s possible
People don’t like to be told what to do.
This could have been my shortest writing with that one sentence, sadly, I have to elaborate.
It’s really simple. I don’t care how old you are or what your level of intelligence is being told what to do is almost always seen as an affront to our life and liberty.
People will do what you tell them not to do even if it wasn’t in their mind to do said thing in the first place. Such is the human.
That’s the quagmire. You have two forces: the protesters and what it is they’re protesting. Organizing the protesters…that shit is hard. Deciding what to protest, even harder.
So we’re going to take a quick second to talk about both. Why it was once easier to organize, why it’s difficult now, and what exactly we’re organizing against.
What the hell are we protesting?!?
That is the starting point, the middle point, and the end point. Take the NFL Boycott. We said we were going to stand up for Colin Kaepernick because the NFL whiteballed him and excluded him from the League. We said that we were going to boycott the NFL until someone drafted him.
I didn’t agree. It didn’t make sense to me. Why are we fighting to have our brother who has been out here exhibiting great acts of charity and humanity to go back into that CTE factory (which I love, no less)?
Yes, he’s taking a knee for the injustices done to us. Yes, that’s why owners don’t want to him up. Got it. Wrote about it. That was the beginning.
But then Trump called the players “sons of bitches” and that changed EVERYTHING. We all sat around to see what the players would do and they did fuck all.
That was it for me. I love football. First sport that I ever fell in love with. But sons of bitches? If a man, any man, called any of these players that on the street, I don’t care if they’re under contract or it’s right before the Super Bowl, they might just go upside someone’s head.
These dudes took a knee.
Naw, bruv. I’m not in their shoes, don’t know all of their responsibilities, debts, etc. All I know is, I can’t support them on this. It’s like watching one of your friends that’s 6’4” constantly getting bullied, complaining, crying, but doing nothing about it.
I’ve effectively joined the Boycott and haven’t watched a game since, haven’t really been following what’s going on (though, things slip through via social media), and I don’t give a shit. That’s the middle.
But when does it end? When they bring Kap back in? If they do, does he continue to take a knee? What if it’s in a clause that he can’t, he signs it, and is back to playing…we still boycotting? What’s the end game?
Personally, I went at least seven years without watching any sport, dropping one (sport) doesn’t seem that difficult. But I’ve talked with my family about this. Football was one of our family traditions.
We grew up watching games together and even when we were in separate cities and time zones we would call each other and talk about whatever game was on. “Did you see that catch?!?” “He was offsides!” We watched the Genocide/Thanks Taking Day games (even if the teams sucked). Just what we did.
But protesting almost always means SACRIFICE.
Now we’re getting into the meat.
It’s a shame that when some people hear ‘Rosa Parks’ her name doesn’t connect with one of the most effective, well-covered protests of the Civil Rights era (some of us might even think of the OutKast song first).
I’m not going to go into great detail about the protest, it’s probably best that you take it upon yourself and read about it yourself, internalize the particulars, and make the story an every day model as example on how unity is power.
But suffice it to say, in protest of the Jim Crow policies that had Black folk moving to the back of the bus, the Women’s Political Council, a group of sistas founded to “live above mediocrity, elevate their thinking … and in general to improve their status as a group,” organized the Boycott.
What they were protesting was clear — the bus system. Why they were protesting was clear. The objective of being able to sit where you damn well please was clear too. Clean cut, dry, right?
Kind of. The Boycott was years in the making. But when Rosa Parks was arrested on Thursday, 1 December 1955, she just happened to be the perfect model to frame the protest around. E.D. Nixon RECRUITED Martin Luther King Jr, and WPC President, Jo Ann Robinson, went about getting 52,000 flyers (you saw that right) to as many people as humanly possible:
And it was on and popping. That means that all of the people who depended on the bus to get to and fro had to find a way. Some walked, the women of the WPC and others formed a car pool to help out…and were arrested for doing so, in order to financially sustain the boycott, organizers like Georgia Gilmore cooked food, sold it to boycotters, and took that money right back into the protest, we organized and figured it out.
A year and fifteen days later, Montgomery capitulated, and we could sit down in any seat available. You should know this story. If you don’t, watch this episode of Eyes on the Prize. Teach this to your children.
Here go another clear cut protest.
I think you may already see the tie-in…but I’ma finish.
It’s no mystery now, nor was it then, stores make their money…the bulk of their money during the so-called Holiday Season. They throw up bargains, cutting close to the margins, eliminating excess stock, and moving their books from red (minus) to black (plus), hence, Black Friday.
But the students of the AUC weren’t having it. Morehouse, Clark College, Spelman, and Morris Brown students formed the Committee on Appeal for Human Rights in February of 1960 and demanded that downtown Atlanta stores desegregate. They asked that no one shop in those stores until it was done. Beginning on Sunday, June 26 1960, the students began giving out leaflets and quickly they saw results. Students like Otis Moss Jr, wore posters that read, “Wear Old Clothes With New Dignity. Don’t Buy Here!”
This too went on for a year.
Then in September 1961, downtown Atlanta stores AND schools desegregated.
The call to boycott during the Christmas Season was called on at least one other time that I know of, right after the terrorist bombing that murdered Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Carol Denise McNair, at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, James Baldwin, Ossie and Ruby Davis, James John O. Killens, Odetta Gordan, and Louis Lomax called for a boycott during the holiday season as well.
Check this student’s op-ed response piece in The Heights (Boston College Student paper):
It may be a little unclear at that size so I’ll illustrate a few of the points in the article for your reading pleasure. Mr. Unger begins:
No, Virginia, there may not be a Santa Clause this year. At least not if a certain segment of the Negro community has its way. The group, headed by James Baldwin, has proposed that in memory of the tragic bombing which recently rocked Birmingham, Alabama, all Negroes should boycott Christmas shopping this year.
Check the divide and conquer:
We cannot afford, as Dr. Martin Luther King so well put it, to return to a ‘business as usual’ attitude. To do so would be to ignore the forces of history and our own great promise as a nation. Yet the Negro leadership must also also realize that problems it faces now have their genesis less in less in areas where demonstrations or laws can be effective.
He concludes with :
One fails to see how the children killed in the Birmingham bombing will be adequately remembered by a boycott of stores at Christmas-time… …There is no doubt that the Negro community has the power to disrupt a good deal of our modern society. How and when to exercise that power is the taks for responsible leadership.
Now we don’t need white students to espouse these words…
You may have noticed — I use the word EFFECTIVE and not the word SUCCESSFUL. There’s a reason behind that. Take something like chemotherapy. It may be EFFECTIVE in fighting back cancer…but it’s not always SUCCESSFUL in totally eradicating it.
What we’re dealing with is a Cancerous Problem.
In the ignorance of my youth, I balked at the Civil Rights Movement because their only aim was to to be effective in eliminating the laws of Jim Crow. As the sixties ticked on and INEQUALITY persisted, many of the Civil Rights Leaders, notably Kwame Ture and Martin Luther King Jr, became disillusioned with their earlier focus. They grew. Now I have.
The Montgomery Bus Boycott was EFFECTIVE…but not successful. They could sit anywhere they wanted but they were still that subservient nigger on the bus. A SUCCESSFUL Boycott would have seen those car pools incorporate into an independent transit system. A SUCCESSFUL Boycott would have produced a self-generating charity from the works of Georgia Gilmore. That type of Boycott could have put the Montgomery Bus system out of business. That’s success.
Similarly, had Black Atlantans built their own Department stores and their own drug stores, beyond single propriety businesses into large, franchised structures, then there would have been no need to ever shop in those downtown businesses ever again.
The difference then is we had an idea of our power.
Now, despite a multitude of millionaires, plethora of degree holding, middle class Black folk, we don’t seem to understand that. My problem with the NFL isn’t that no “owner” will pick-up Kap, their damn slaveowners — indentured servant bosses at best. My problem is that the Black people in the League, 70% of the players we’re talking, aren’t able to see that if they decided to sit out one game, shut the sport down for a day, the type of bargaining power they would have. Like that 6'4" friend that I mentioned earlier, I’m not gonna support you if you not gonna defend yourself.
The call for us to Boycott Black Friday…which…this writing is too late for…but there’s Cyber Monday to avoid and another month that follows…that call is to show us the power that we have. If Black people decided to stop supporting Nike, Nike is going out of business. If every Black person decided that they weren’t supporting anything associated with the NFL, same same.
Same with damn near any business or company that you can think of. If your thoughts are, “which company?” Every company. Most of us here in America aren’t hurting for anything so bad that we can’t go two months without it. But those companies? They NEED your money. Yes, buy groceries. Yes, buy toiletries. Just consider all the other places that you can boycott.
But even that wouldn’t be enough.
It’s a start — but not enough. We need to have our own. Thing is, we have talented people in every arena in life. From pharmaceuticals…legal and illegal…to engineering…from farming to manufacturing. Whatever industry you can think of, Black folk are in there — representing. All those employees that are catching hell slaving for Tesla can become the workforce of a Black automaker. All the glass ceiling bank executives and investment bankers could shore up the Black banks that we have left. etc.
It was once easy to organize because the enemy was easy to see. The evil that we deal with now is far worst. We only see the affects of it. Cancer from processed foods, murder for the love of material items, we don’t charge those crimes to the producers of our foods or clothes so we don’t see the need to protest them…but I promise you…these people don’t have your best interest at heart.
The results should show you that. I know that people don’t like to be told what to do so may I suggest that you go to http://www.justiceorelse.com and read more about why a protest is needed and consider the power that we have as a collective? The sacrifices may be difficult but the gains far greater.
I’ll leave you with the words of the Committee on Appeal for Human Rights:
Help in whatever way you can to make your friends and neighbors understand the value of sticking together. Pray for your leaders, for those who deny us, and yourself and your family — that God may grant us all a richer harvest through this effort that we have ever known.